Ensuring transparency in tollgate revenue collection

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The federal government last week announced plans to re-introducing toll gates on federal roads across the country. The present administration has realized that revenue from oil sector and non-oil sectors are not enough to maintain federal government road across the country.

A check revealed that roads network in Nigeria consists of 32,100 kilometers, for federal roads; 30,500 kilometers, State roads and 130,000 kilometers for rural with most facilities poorly maintained or abandon.

Most rural feeder roads are in a poor state and in some geo–political zones most roads are virtually impassable during the rainy season.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said plans were already concluded to return tolling to interstate highways or federal roads.

“We expect to return toll plazas. We have concluded the designs of what they will look like, what materials they will be rebuilt with, and what new considerations must go into them.

“What we are looking at now and trying to conclude is how the back end runs”, Fashola told State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

Fashola was directly saying commuters that use federal government major roads would have to pay an amount as travel from one state to another.

In 2003, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was rounding off his first term, considered the toll gates spread across Nigeria, as something of a nuisance and ordered that they be dismantled without delay.

Obasanjo advocated that roads should be maintained with the revenue derived from the hike in the pump price of petrol at the time.

He argued that million accrued daily from tolling was insignificant in the larger scheme of things and contributed very little federal government roads maintenance and to the nation’s fiscal budget then.

The former president also argued that toll gates compounded traffic on federal government highways, had become a source of pain for motorists and encouraged corruption.

With the proposed plan by president Muhmmadu Buhari to introduce toll gate at federal government highways, we demand transparency as most of the monies collected across the nation’s highways at the time, ended up in private pockets and in the bank accounts of certain law enforcement syndicates, anyway.

Fashola back in 2011 as the Lagos state governor had instructed Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to begin the collection of toll on the Lekki-Epe expressway.

Over the year, the minister has always advocated that private sector should be major players in road construction and maintenance through a public-private-partnership arrangement.

During his budget presentation speech in the first week of December 2011, Fashola said it had become necessary for motorists to be charged for using the Lekki corridor road because the state government had paid N4 billion as toll on the road to the company in the last year.

Another toll collection point was mounted on the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge as soon as it was commissioned by Fashola on May 29, 2013.

In November of 2017, Fashola told lawmakers that if Nigerians crave smooth federal roads, they should be ready to pay for it. He advocated that monies accrued from tolling will be used to maintain federal highways all year round.

Nigerian NewsDirect observed that most federal roads are in a perpetual state of disrepair under the present administration with little to show on government bridging the gap on infrastructure most especially interstates roads that belong to the federal government.

Fashola’s mindset of paying (heavily) for what you use or consume was also on full display when he held sway as power minister from 2015 to 2019.

His argument throughout his stint in the power sector was that if consumers want to enjoy regular public power supply, a hike in tariff is a necessary evil.

“Electricity is a product; it is made from raw materials; some of the raw materials are gas, power plants; they are also related. So, the issue of tariff is the single issue of price; when the raw materials of course go up, the price cannot stay the same.

The federal government under Fashola wants highways to be on good ‘Maintenance’ in order to attract ease of goods and services movement, attract investors and ease life of Nigerians who suffer while plying these roads on daily basis.

The federal government maintained that over 50 highways owned by federal government across Nigeria will be affected by the tolling exercise.

Over this, Nigerian NewsDirect questioned government supervision and effective implementation of these roads as  motorist pay on each tollgates. The government over the years has a chronic problem of monitoring and making sure those appointed are working inline with government transparency and fight against corruption.

The government has to work on other key issues that include accountability on tollgate collection and strengthen its democracy promises on taking Nigerians to the next level of prosperity and better life for everyone.

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